Pure Accelerate 2017 closes San Francisco warehouse in style

At its Pure Accelerate 2017 conference this week, Pure Storage gave a new interpretation to the term data warehouse.

A reported 3,000 analysts, customers and resellers gathered in a soon-to-be-demolished San Francisco warehouse situated near the city’s central waterfront. Festooned in Pure Storage orange and black, the horseshoe-shaped facility closed its doors for the last time when the conference ended June 14, capped by a celebratory concert by Snoop Dog.

Last week, work crews started to lay the blasting caps that would raze the World War II-era steel plate shop in moments.

Now Pure is trying to make disk storage as obsolete as the warehouse. One of the messages of the show was that flash is the future, particularly NVM Express (NVMe) flash storage.

“We chose an old warehouse because it’s a little irreverent, just like us. And we also did it to juxtapose old and new storage. We see ourselves as disrupting legacy disk,” Pure CEO Scott Dietzen said during his Pure Accelerate 2017 keynote address.

John Cosgrove, Pure Storage chairman and founder, was more blunt.

“Disk has no future; it’s just a matter of time. We are going to provide flash systems that will compete on cost with tape,” Cosgrove said.

Pure Storage executives fired a steady stream of volleys at legacy vendors, particularly all-flash market leader and chief nemesis Dell EMC. And Dell EMC fired back with a series of blogs during Pure Accelerate 2017 trying to debunk Pure’s claim of highly scalable storage. Dell EMC questioned whether Pure arrays can handle mission-critical workloads and criticized its NVMe strategy.

Pure executives shrugged off the criticism, noting that nine-year-old Pure Storage is on pace to crack $1 billion this year and expects to hit $2 billion by 2018. “We leave it up to customers to decide,” Pure CIO Yousouf Khan said.

There are no more warehouses lined up for Pure Accelerate 2018, which is slated to take place in Las Vegas.

Other tidbits from Pure Accelerate 2017

For all the talk about NVMe flash and NVMe over fabric these days, the transition won’t happen overnight. That’s because installing a new network is costly and messy, and most organizations don’t need the massive bandwidth increase yet. Still, storage networking vendors are ramping up preparations.

Brocade Communications Systems is fielding more and more requests from existing Fibre Channel (FC) users regarding the impact of NVMe flash, said Curt Beckman, a Brocade principal architect for NVMe over Fibre Channel. Brocade is in the process of being acquired by Broadcom.

“Customers are hearing a lot of hype about NVMe. We think there will be an explosion of NVMe storage for volumes on the back end, just like [what occurred] with SAS and SATA. But the 80% of the customers already on FC are going to want to use it as their NVMe fabric,” Beckman said.

The University of California Davis isn’t implementing NVMe now, but storage administrator Danh Duong is marking its progression. Duong’s team supports the UC Davis campus and resells services to other campuses in California’s university system.

“We have some campuses telling us ‘Give us the fastest storage you can. We don’t care if there is a price premium.’ And there would be a price premium,” Duong said.

Simplicity and ease of use are more important than ever. This refrain was echoed by a number of Pure customers. One example is Domino’s Pizza, which streamlined its digital business by replacing legacy storage with Pure Storage FlashStack converged infrastructure, which includes Cisco servers and VMware software. The pizza chain gets approximately 60% of its orders via its mobile app, up from 30% a few years ago, said Kelli Zielinski, manager of storage and compute at the pizza chain. Zielinski turned to a FlashStack converged infrastructure combining Pure arrays with Cisco servers and networking.

“We can’t always predict when the demand to our infrastructure is going to be impacted,” Zielinski said. “Traditional arrays were not keeping up with our peak issues.”

Enterprises expect vendors to deliver more for less. This one is isn’t exactly a revelation, although the advent of the cloud is leading some organizations to abandon the forklift approach. The World Bank Group switched to Pure after receiving a $20 million bill to upgrade its previous vendor’s storage, said Arthur Riel, a director of infrastructure, cloud middleware engineering and finance.

“A big part of my job is to save money,” he said. “It really comes home to you at the World Bank, where you’re not just trying to beef up the bottom line or increase the bonus pool. If I can save a couple million dollars a year in storage, I start asking, ‘How many schools can that build in Country X? How many water filtration systems can it buy in Country Y?'”

Like other vendors, Pure Storage is expanding to the edge. Pure Storage and Google introduced a prototype for Pure Edge, which combines Pure’s NVMe-based FlashBlade appliance with Google cloud storage and database software. The device allows rapid iteration of software for data analytics of sensor-based edge computing devices for use on oil rigs, windmills and other ruggedized environments. Pure did not give a timetable when Pure Edge would be commercially available.

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